Complain? Who Me?

Following the lead of another minister I read about, I challenged the congregation to 21 days of no murmuring, complaining, or argumentative interactions. It sounds extreme, but the Apostle Paul said believers should not be doing it at all, much less for 21 days (Philippians 2:14-15).

What does it say about me when I say that I trust God, but complain like a teenager told to clean his room when the weather, traffic, meal, etc. do not measure up to my expectations? It says that I do not trust God’s decisions in this matter. If I do not trust Him in these little things, do I really trust God at all?

If I am to “shine as bright lights in darkness” as believers should, I must stop acting like the people dwelling in darkness! Being “All In” encompasses ALL nooks and crannies of life.

Do all things without murmurings and disputings. That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:14-15 ESV).

photo credit: calling a wahmbulance via photopin (license)

To Vote, or Not To Vote?

In the dynamics of this unusual election cycle in the US there are celebrity types threatening a move if this person or that person is elected as the next POTUS. That kind of drama has become common place among the spoiled, brat-like dregs of society (even if they are in showbiz) we have birthed and reared over the past few decades. Those threats, whether or not they are carried out, are little more than the rants of people who have begun believing the press releases put out by their own publicists.

The knee-jerk reactions that I find troubling are the “believers” who are saying they just will not vote this cycle. While I have no interest in dissuading you if you feel that God expects you to sit this one out, I can’t help remembering a teacher I had in the 1970’s. He had returned from mission work in Italy (I think) a couple of years earlier. While there, he had worked in the campaign for a communist politician during an election cycle.

You can imagine the reaction from red-blooded, redneck Texans he received after that announcement! After he let us vent the excess hostility that had immediately boiled up, he “justified” himself. The main thing that I remember about his explanation is that you must choose between what is available. The candidate he supported was less of a danger than the other one. After all, the purpose of government is to protect and defend the citizens. It is nice to think about governments being “righteous,” but that is not going to happen this side of eternity. There are too many people involved for it to be possible.

May I encourage every believer to vote. Choose from among those on the ballot. Do not murmur nor complain, but trust that God is not napping. You may find the outcome confusing, but do not assume God is not in it.

This is certainly a challenging part of being “All In” as God’s disciple.

photo credit: I got to sit next to this all day via photopin (license)

It’s Just His Turn

Human health is an interesting thing. Like the old expression: “Here today…Gone tomorrow,” the illusion of physical or mental health can change dramatically in only a moment.

In the same day recently, I learned of an automobile wreck involving my nephew and his family, my daughter-in-law’s mother’s blood clot and subsequent leg amputation, and my brother’s medical event that appeared to have been either a mild stroke or a mild seizure. All of these people had plans for that day as well as those to come, which had to be modified. While all survived, they are all changed. A stark reminder that our physical lives really are a wisp of smoke in the wind (James 4:14).

It is easy to forget that God is involved and not on vacation when such events take place in our lives. We may be confused about what exactly is being accomplished for good (Romans 8:28), but the thing about being an “All In” disciple is that I trust God even with especially with things uncomfortable and inconvenient.

His “good” may require difficult times for me personally (like it did with Stephen, the first recorded Christian martyr), but death takes us to the ultimate reward anyway. I am to trust Him with that just as I am to trust Him in everything else.

It is certainly a clear reminder to me that “graduation” to glory is just around the corner. I must (and will) remain “All In.” How about you?

photo credit: King George Military Hospital, 3rd floor theatre, Dr. Barrington Ward and Dr. Lillian via photopin (license)

Peace In Chaos?

Early morning traffic in the city is not a new experience, but it is something I only participate in occasionally these days. It is stop and go, this lane that lane, switch and twitch, relax and tense up.

Traveling with a friend recently I was reminded of Isaiah’s words: “Crying Peace, Peace, where there is no peace.” Not the same context, but the words fit. My friend was driving to an early medical appointment and tends to be edgy on a good day. This wasn’t one of those.

I assured him several times that all was well, there was plenty of time, and he should just relax. His assessment was different. He knew (intellectually) that I was right, BUT… it just didn’t feel that way. He could not relax.

Have you ever been there? Jesus’ disciples were when they finally got the message that Jesus was actually leaving. The brethren from Ephesus felt that way when they realized they were never going to see Paul again. The answer in both instances was the same, “Look to God.”

Folks, that sounds overly simplistic. Perhaps that is why more people do not try it. It is the answer though. The peace that passes understanding is real. We just aren’t very good at relaxing when all of the “traffic” is unpredictable. What IS predictable is God’s care for His children.

Be “All In” as God’s follower and relax into His care, even in the midst of chaos. It is better than holding a death grip on the steering wheel that doesn’t control anything anyway.

 

Photo credit: Wayne Wells

Anger Addiction?

I read the other day that it is possible to become psychologically addicted to being angry. Assuming it is true, how would that happen?

Several years ago Cindy and I worked with juvenile males that would have been felons if they had been eighteen, so we are not taking about nice boys. But underneath their rough exterior, most of them were still just boys. Most had grown up in environments where their adult role models were not able to be respected (respectable). The young men had, therefor, followed the behavior of others that were poor models.

It seems that every emotion they experienced (other than pleasure) was pretty much processed the same. Anger was the response to nearly every negative emotion. They felt as if they had no security, always feeling threatened. They felt alone, even surrounded by their gang buddies. Maybe that is how it happens to everyone: feeling alone and threatened, processing every emotional response as anger.

It does not have to be so. For the “All In” disciple Jesus promised to always be with you. He even promised eternal protection: “Let not your hearts be troubled…”

Be an “All In” follower of Jesus. Then you can relax into His love and care… and not be angry.

photo credit: “Don’t get cute with me!” via photopin (license)

Graduation Is Coming!

I do not know where this picture was taken, nor to whom I should give credit, but it captures the essence of graduation! In 2004 I got a “whiff” of my own mortality. Cancer was found, and removed from my “innards.” When asked about how long until I would be considered cancer free, the surgeon and oncologist, without hesitation, said, “never.”

There is something about coming face-to-face with your own mortality that puts a man on his heels. My princess was crushed, concerned about being alone (even though our sons would never allow that). Her reality was/is somewhat different from mine. Her concern was being alone, having to move, what about income (even though she is a teacher), what will it be like to care for a dying man, etc. My battle was with my body and my ego.

Twelve years later we have both transitioned/grown into a place we could not imagine then: peace. Her questions remain unanswered and mine have not changed. The impact of the cancer on my body is measurable, but has taken place so slowly as to be almost imperceptable.

The real impact has for me been spiritual, and I think it has for Cindy as well. In our thinking we have transitioned away from the plans and goals we had made for our lives. We have moved toward an understanding of Abraham’s search for a “city whose builder and maker is God.” We are in reality, only spirits, temporarily clothed in flesh for our brief passage in this world.

We become so attached to these temporary trappings that we easily forget we are only to pitch tents here, not build mansions. For God’s people, bought with the blood of Jesus, death is not the enemy, it is going home. That’s why the picture grabbed my attention and my heart.

I look forward to seeing you there if we never meet on this part of the journey. Lest there be any misunderstanding, physically I’m still doing well and have no reason to expect a change anytime soon. It will be OK if it does change though.

Until then, I’m “ALL IN.” Are you?

My Reason To Believe

I was asked about my reason to believe, like Bruce Springsteen’s song,  “Reason to Believe”- “At the end of every hard-earned day / people find some reason to believe.” 

If you are like most, why you believe can be a tough question to answer when you actually get down to putting it on paper. Many just muddle along, drawn by habit and circumstances, not really thinking about motivation or purpose.

IMG_0945.JPGIt is easy to have an intellectual answer, but far more difficult to engage soul searching to find a personal gut-level answer. You’d think it easy for me since my message is that God expects us to be “All In” as disciples, but it’s not as easy as I thought it would be when I actually sat at the keyboard, beginning to type.

There seems to be a place within me that is empty without God. As a younger man, I would have scoffed at such a simplistic notion, but now it is perfectly reasonable and a remarkably profound answer. I have found fulfillment living in God… and God actually living in me. As promised, I have found a peace that just can not be adequately described by words nor understood by those who are not experiencing it.

“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Corinthians 2:14 (ESV)

“What I believe” about God is rooted in His communication to mankind, the Bible. “That I believe” is evidently rooted in my creation. I can run from God, deny God, and argue with God. What I can not do is make God evaporate, so I must decide what I’m going to do about the reality of God.

I’m “All In.” Are You?

Reason to Believe